TED, Long Beach DAY ONE

February 4, 2009

TED meetings are always incredible, but after a day and a bit, I am amazed at the richness and strength, the depth and breadth of the presentations. The other side of TED is defined by the people you meet who to varying degrees have either had a powerful influence on our society or who are about to have that influence. Take the example of Blake Mycoskie who is the CEO and founder of TOMS Shoes. Every pair of shoes that Mycoskie sells in North America triggers the company into giving a pair of shoes away to people in need in developing countries. So far, tens of thousands of shoes have been donated to needy people around the world. Blake is a wonderful and humble individual.

John Breen is the founder of Free Rice which is a web site where you can purchase grains of rice that are then given to the hungry in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Steve Glenn builds modular houses where every part of the house contributes to sustainable practices, reduction of energy consumption and the wise use of water. Carolyn Porco leads the Cassini Imaging Team, which is charting Saturn and its moons and has discovered enough basic building blocks of life on one of the moons that will lead to a transformation of our relationship to our own solar system. Juliana Ferreira fights the illegal trade of wildlife in Brazil, which is an uphill battle to save many species from extinction. Sean Gourley has developed a model that begins to explain the most important patterns of modern warfare. The model will enable researchers to better understand the structures and outcomes of particular kinds of warfare in the 21st century. Katrin Verclass from Mobileactive.org described the extraordinary use of cell phones as devices for change through the use of new modalities of interaction and clustering.

Juliana Rotich explained how cell phones are being used for citizen journalism in places like Kenya. More information on this project can be found at the USHAHIDI web site.

Juan Enriquez discussed the intensity and dangers of the present economic crisis in order to build an argument for innovation and invention and then said, “You manage crisis by using it to keep an eye on the future.” He reported on the extraordinary advances in the use of stem cells and suggested that humans were moving onto the next stage of evolution. P.W. Singer gave a brilliant lecture on the reshaping of war through the use of machines and what that portends from an ethical as well strategic perspective. What happens when soldiers use the images from drones to make life and death decisions without ever seeing the real impact of what they have done? David Hansen has developed a robotic face that is so life-like it is able to respond to your smiles and frowns. Bill Gates talked about malaria and his foundation and the fight against disease in Africa.

Tim Berners-Lee made a plea for a new Web that would tag data so that searches would yield information more directly linked in a meaningful way to the subjects being researched. Al Gore presented more information on the decline of the Arctic and Antarctic as signs that we still have not understood the implications and effects of global warming and environmental destruction. Nandan Nilekani who co-founded Infosys which is one of India’s leading information technology companies talked about his next project which is to re-imagine India in the 21st Century. He made an interesting observation that 8 million mobile phones are sold every month in India and that over the next thirty years India will demographically speaking be one of the youngest countries in the world. Ray Anderson, the founder of Interface made an impassioned plea for new sustainable practices on the part of industry. “Our promise is to eliminate any negative impact our company may have on the environment by the year 2020.”

Jake Eberts introduced a film entitled Oceans, which simply put will change our view of animal life underwater. The extract he showed was breathtaking. In between all of this were a series of performances from a Gamelan group combined with the dance troupe ArcheDream that was breathtaking and a performance by Naturally 7 a rock group that generates its instrumentation without instruments just using their mouths to make the sounds we would normally associate with everything from drums to guitars. Regina Spektor finished off the day with an amazing series of beautifully crafted songs.

All this in one day…